There won't be a chapter this next Sunday, meaning the new volume will begin on January 3rd of 2021!
Just a reminder that CTCT: CTL's eBook is already out! Check my Carrd or Patreon to find more about it.
Edited by RedPandaChick
We stood in front of everyone at the start of the bridge. My heartbeat kept rising with every moment we waited and it wasn't only for the hunt to begin.
That Narumi…, I growled in my head as I stared at Araki-kun on the other bridge.
"Su-chan, snap out of it!" Hisa shouted at me through all the commotion and I returned to reality.
"You can look at him all you want after the hunt," Rem smiled, holding the team's basket.
"I-It's not that!" I blurted out as my cheeks flushed, but the excitement for competing overpowered the embarrassment. "Anyway, let's win this!" I shouted, eager to begin.
"Are you ready?" the principal shouted, standing on the platform.
"Yes!" everyone energetically responded.
I bent my knees in the most favorable angle and fixed my feet on the ground to get the maximum friction and the best launch possible.
Inhale…, I told myself. Exhale.
"Three," the principal started to count down.
As I inhaled again, a sudden pain crushed my ankle and made my foot feel like it was stuck in mud.
Please not now! I shouted in my head.
Don't let your team down again! I told myself.
I focused on the other side of the bridge and the world became silent. Heat rose in my chest and the pain magically faded away—that is, if adrenaline could be called magic.
Inhale, I told myself.
Time stopped as I held my breath.
"Go!" the principal shouted and a horn blasted through the whole school.
My instincts took control of my body and launched instantly. Before I realized it, I had already crossed the bridge while everyone was still in the middle.
I need to stick to the plan, I thought as I ran toward the fenced hallway.
I crossed to the other side of the building through the central tunnel and arrived at the backyard, making sure not to slip while taking the turns as quickly as possible.
I arrived first, but I had no idea where the eggs were. I looked around in every direction, but there weren't any at plain sight, so I decided to run towards the closest bushes and search there.
Bingo! I thought when I saw an egg.
I crouched down to pick it up and saw another one as I stood up next to the tree at my right but, before running to it, I noticed that other people were already closer than me.
I knew the backyard was going to get emptied in a blink, so I decided to go to our planned meeting spot.
Coming to the backyard wasn't a good idea, I thought as I sprinted back to the same tunnel I had arrived from.
Out of nowhere, someone came around the corner in front of me and, distracted by thinking about what we should do next, I had no time to react and crashed into them. I fell back to the ground, but managed to keep the egg in my hand safe, only getting a little scratch on my right hand as it scraped against the building.
"Sorry," I apologized. "I was running without—Araki-kun!"
"Kozue," he replied. "No, I was the one distracted, I'm sorry."
He held his team's basket while sitting on the ground.
"Are your eggs okay?" I asked him as I stood up.
That sounded weird, I told myself.
"Yes, we only have two anyway," he responded.
I extended my hand to help him stand up, but he rejected, "We'd better not do that."
"Oh, you're right," I giggled. "Wait, did we touch just now?"
"You're wearing a jacket and long pants, so it's unlikely we did."
"True!" I smiled. "Ah, we should run now or we'll fall behind!"
He nodded and I turned around.
"Wait, are you okay? You got a scratch on your hand," he asked me before leaving.
"Oh, it's nothing, don't worry," I replied. "See you after the hunt!"
I put my foot on the ground to start running, but the piercing pain came back to my ankle as soon as I did. I let out a short groan and tripped forward.
Not again! I yelled in my head.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Araki-kun asked. "I can help you go to—"
"I'm fine, I said it's nothing," I grumbled without looking at him.
You have to be kidding me, I thought as I limped to the meeting spot with practically one leg. Everything fell apart in just one minute.
"Su-chan, there you are!" Rem shouted from the distance.
Suddenly, she left the basket on the floor and ran to me. She immediately grabbed my shoulders and helped me sit down in the hallway.
"Are you okay? How long have you been walking like this?" she asked me, extremely worried.
"One minute, I think…," I replied between my heavy breathing and groans.
"You should've stopped when it started hurting."
"I know, but I won't let my team down. Not again…"
We stayed silent. She stared at me, so I looked down at the floor to avoid seeing her expression.
I knew I was dumb, but I didn't want the same thing happening again; my team telling me it wasn't my fault and having fun was what mattered, but I could see in their faces how destroyed they were. They wanted to win the tournament as much as I did, but my dumb mistake ruined it all.
"Rem, Su-chan! Why did you leave the basket on the floor?" Hisa asked as she arrived, holding our basket. "Su-chan? Why are you on the floor?"
She sighed, "I suspected this might happen."
"Then why didn't you stop me?" I asked.
"We wanted you to have fun running," Rem answered. "It's been a while since you did."
"And you've been a lot happier ever since you met Araki Koji," Hisa added.
I stared at them. "Thank you."
I began to stand up but Hisa and Rem immediately stopped me.
"You shouldn't move anymore," Hisa said.
"Yeah, we'll look for the eggs and you'll hold the basket!" Rem smiled.
"Sure," I smiled back.
Hisa handed me the basket and said, "We know how competitive you are, but this is just an event, we're here to have fun, risking your ankle isn't worth it. I'm sorry, Su-chan."
They ran off in opposite directions.
I sat, feeling useless, while everyone else ran through the school. I could see their smiles when they passed in front of me.
I saw Kawahara and Tarō, who had teamed up with another guy. Also, Araki-kun, Narumi, and Tsuga-san, who seemed to be having fun.
Araki-kun's eyes and mine met a couple of times, but I turned away instantly.
Hisa and Rem were giving their everything for the team while I waited, only able to watch them from afar, just like that time in middle school.
I put the basket next to me and curled up to hide my face with my arms on my knees.
Not again…, I thought. I wonder what Araki-kun thinks of me now…
The same horn that began the hunt blasted through the air and Shimamura-sensei shouted through the megaphone, "The hunt is over!"
Everyone stopped running and breathed heavily between their chatter. Some of them even fell to the ground, exhausted.
Hisa and Rem returned to me a minute after and I couldn't believe what I saw.
"How did you…?" I blurted out and they grinned, while Hisa did the peace sign.
"What? You didn't believe in us?" Rem bragged.
Rem helped me walk and we gathered in the central garden again. A few people's baskets were filled with eggs just like ours, but other ones were completely empty.
"I think we have a chance," Rem happily said and Hisa nodded.
"You both are awesome," I smiled, but I still felt quite frustrated.
The pain suddenly became unbearable.
I don't think I can stand up much longer! I told myself.
"We hope you had fun," Shimamura-sensei said through the megaphone, standing on the platform. "I think you noticed that we hid more eggs this year for more competition."
Unable to hold my stance, I lost my balance and dropped to the ground.
"Su-chan!" Hisa shouted in a hushed voice and crouched down to help me.
Rem, also, crouched down and took the basket from me. They both grabbed my arms and pulled me up.
"Let's go to the infirmary," Hisa said.
"I'm fine—" I tried to reply, but the pain interrupted my protest.
"Come on," Rem said.
Hisa put my arm around her neck and said to Rem, "Wait here in case we win something."
She nodded and we began to walk between everyone, who stared at us while murmuring among themselves.
"I didn't expect you to be this heavy," Hisa panted.
I stared at her instead of replying and thought, I'll kill her when I can.
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding! You look like you wanna kill me," Hisa nervously laughed. "Oh."
"Oh?" I repeated, puzzled.
She grinned evilly. I knew that smile from all the way back in elementary school; something good never came after.
"Araki-san!" she shouted in a low voice and waved her hand not too high up.
I knew it! I shouted in my mind.
Araki-kun stared toward us for a second before handing his basket to Narumi. Then he approached us.
Hisa grinned, "Araki-san, can you help Su-can go to the infirmary?"
He must say no, I thought. What if we touch by accident?
"Sure," he replied.
My brain had a short circuit.
"Great! Come here," Hisa said.
She slowly moved my arm off her shoulders then instructed Araki-kun on what to do. "Put it around your neck, on your shoulder."
"Like this?" he asked.
My arm wrapped around him. However, I noticed he was careful not to touch my skin. Then his other hand passed behind my back to my other shoulder.
Why is he so warm?! I asked myself. At least he didn't put it on my—
"No, no, you should put your hand here to support her more," Hisa said and moved Araki-kun's hand to my waist.
My head fumed.
"But I don't know where the infirmary is," Araki-kun said.
"She'll guide you! Right, Su-chan?" Hisa smirked.
I'll definitely kill her, I thought.
"Y-Yes," I replied, trying not to die of embarrassment.
"Perfect! We'll come see you after they announce the winners," Hisa added. It was as if I could hear her squealing just by looking at her face.
We walked to the bridge in silence. I didn't even care if everyone was staring at us; he was holding me by my waist!
Natsuhiko-sensei stopped us before the bridge.
"Is everything alright?" she asked us in a soft voice.
"Yes," I replied. "My ankle hurts and Araki-kun is taking me to the infirmary."
"I see. Please be careful and come back when you can," she said, worried.
Araki-kun and I nodded and we continued on our way.
We stayed silent as we crossed the bridge. My heart wouldn't calm down but, somehow, it was still peaceful and soothing. It was so weird that I completely forgot about the pain for a moment.
The water running beneath us started to overpower the fuss coming from the garden.
"Kozue," Araki-kun called me and woke me from my trance.
"What's the way?" he asked as we stood in the hallway.
"Oh, to the right. Luckily it's not that far."
Right as he took a step, he slipped and tightened his grip on my waist.
"Sorry, I didn't expect it to be so slippery," he apologized.
My face couldn't get any redder.
"I-It's okay! I didn't either," I giggled and looked away from him.
Doesn't he realize what he's doing?! I asked myself.
"Kozue Suzuka-san, Araki Koji-kun, what are you doing here?" Kawahara asked as she approached us accompanied by Tarō, who held their basket.
"We should ask you the same," Araki-kun said.
"We came to ask the doctor for help because our teammate felt sick," she replied.
"That sucks. I hope he's okay," I said and Kawahara and Tarō nodded.
"May I ask what are you two doing?" Kawahara questioned as she stared at us. Araki-kun still held my waist.
"H-He's helping me go to the infirmary because my ankle hurts!" I stuttered.
"Oh, so it is that," she said as she pushed her glasses up. "I understand. We shall go, Takuto Tarō-san."
"Yes!" he replied like a soldier following orders and they walked away.
What does she understand? I wondered.
My ankle throbbed in pain again and I let out a short groan.
"We should keep going," Araki-kun said.
We continued walking through the hallway for a little while until we almost reached its end.
"It's here—" I said, but the door opening interrupted me.
"Suzuka-san?" the doctor said, coming out of the infirmary.
"Hi, doc," I giggled.
He stared at me for a moment before asking, "Is it your ankle again?"
He sighed. "How many times have you come?"
"I lost the count…"
"But it's been a few months. I even felt that something was missing during the holidays!" he laughed.
"I don't come that often!"
"I'm just kidding," he smiled. Only then did he notice Araki-kun standing beside me. "Oh? Are you the transfer student?"
"I am," he replied. "Does everyone know me for that?"
"Well, it's not often that someone transfers to this school. I'm sorry if it bothered you," he apologized. "Ah, I should go check that kid! I'm sorry, Suzuka-san, but can you put ice on your ankle until I come back?"
"Sure. It's the same as always, right?"
He nodded. "We'll greet later, kid. Please stay with her for a bit!" he shouted as he sprinted away.
He's as energetic as always, I thought.
We stepped into the empty infirmary and Araki-kun helped me lay down on one of the beds. Then he started searching for an ice bag around the room.
The pain became worse as soon as I stopped moving. I couldn't even think properly. Fortunately, Araki-kun found the ice quickly.
"I found one," he said and approached me.
"Can you put it on my ankle? Just lift my pants a little.
He nodded and put it on right away. The ice was—obviously—freezing, but it made the throbbing calm down.
"Thanks," I sighed in relief. "Sorry for giving you this much trouble."
"It's nothing. It was my fault, after all."
"I made you fall. Then I saw you limping and noticed that you spent the rest of the hunt sitting in the hallway. You couldn't have fun because of me."
So he was feeling guilty…, I thought. That means he didn't have fun because of me.
"We crashed into each other, it was both our fault," I smiled. "And my ankle was hurting before that already."
I nodded and giggled, "My ankle is quite weak."
The conversation stopped for a moment.
"Is that why you helped me? You felt guilty?" I asked him.
"Yes. Also because Hashimoto-san asked me."
His blunt answer hit me in the chest like a javelin. At least he could say it nicely, I thought.
"I see. Can you leave me alone for a bit? I want to relax."
"But the doctor said—"
"I'm fine; I'm just tired from the pain."
He waited for a moment before turning around to leave.
What was I thinking? I wondered. Why else would he have come?
It was obvious but, for some reason, I still expected another answer. Why? What would've he answered? Was I really expecting him to say that he liked me?
"Actually," he said.
"There was another reason why I wanted to help and be alone with you," he added. "I know you said you weren't interested in this stuff, but I think I like you."
I stared at him and was only able to think, Eh?ns126.96.36.199da2